Despite throwing for 350 yards and three touchdowns, rookie quarterback Case Keenum was unable to lead the Houston Texans to a win over the Indianapolis Colts in Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Sunday Night Football.
The Texans were playing without star running back Arian Foster, who was out with a hamstring. Seven year vet Matt Schaub was relegated to back up position but never made it onto the field. The Colts were playing without stabilizing leader Reggie Wayne, who missed his first game in 12 years. On the flight down, the Colts kept his seat open and he walked out onto the field with them as an honorary captain. Wayne called the winning toss and the Colts chose to defer.
That was a decision they may have questioned as Keenum sailed a touchdown pass to Andre Johnson in the end zone to take the lead. The scoring drive was three plays for 73 yards and took one minute exactly to execute.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s first pass was to his Stanford buddy Fleener for a 44 yard gain. The next pass however was incomplete, also to Fleener.
The Colts couldn’t seem to get anything positive going in the first half. Keenum continued to lob bomb after bomb downfield at will, and running back Ben Tate ran around over and through Indy’s defense. Tate fractured four ribs in Keenum’s start against the Kansas City Chiefs before last week’s bye. He took a pain killing shot before the game and entered wearing protective gear.
Tate did not play like a man with four broken ribs. He crashed through the Colts D-line for breakaway runs enough to keep the Texans ahead for over three quarters. By halftime, Keenum had hit Johnson for three touchdowns to carry a 21-3 lead into the third quarter.
Tragically, as the teams filed down the tunnel for halftime, Texans Coach Gary Kubiak slowly collapsed on the 24 yard line. Reports indicate he was holding the sides of his head just as the first half expired. Kubiak leaned over and put his hand on his thighs before falling to his knees. Medical staff rushed to his side and laid him down. According to CBS’s Michele Tafoya, Kubiak was conscious but kept his eyes squeezed shut as if in pain. He was talking but could to sit up despite trying a few times. Eventually he was strapped to a backboard, loaded onto a stretcher and taken to a local hospital by ambulance. His family accompanied him.
NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reported by phone that the Texans were saying Kubiak did not have a heart attack and the trip to the hospital was a precaution. After the game, Tafoya spoke with Texans general manager Rick Smith on Kubiak’s condition.
According to Smith, Kubiak experienced dizziness and light-headedness, but was awake and coherent. There was no indication of a heart attack and 52-year-old Kubiak has no history of heart issues. He was being kept under close observation with his family near and tests were being run to discern exactly what lead to the collapse. Texans’ officials clarified that Kubiak never actually lost consciousness and was responsive to the medical staff. Smith stated Kubiak could be back as early as tomorrow.
In Kubiak’s absence, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips took over as acting head coach. The Colts received the ball first in the third quarter and looked to be heading for a 3 and out. Texans’ safety Ed Reed was called for an unnecessary roughness hit as his elbow caught the side of a Colts’ receiver’s helmet giving Indy a first down.
From here, Luck passed incomplete twice in a row. At this point Luck was 6 of 19 completions for only 89 yards. The receivers were not winning the down field battles but the offensive line was holding well enough to allow Luck to attempt the deep passes. Unfortunately, those passes kept sailing over his receiver’s heads. The Colts had to settle for a 35 yard field goal, bringing the score to 24-6, Houston.
A roughing the passer call on Reed gave the Colts a first down on 3rd and 6 after Luck ran out of bounds. Reed encountered Luck just as he was hitting the sideline and this contact is what drew the flag.
On their next possession, Luck hit T. Y. Hilton at the 48 then gained 9 more yards on a catch by Whalen. J.J. Watt was getting pressure up the middle and on a first down pass to the 25, Luck’s receiver Brown dropped the ball. An incomplete pass into the end zone drew a flag for roughing the passer. Luck was in the air at the time and the Colts got another first down out the call.
The Texans blitzed on 3rd and goal and Luck was able to hit T. Y. Hilton 1-on-1 against Bryce McCain for a touchdown, bringing the score to 24-12 Texans. Coach Chuck Pagano went for the 2-point conversion but the Colts were unable to convert, leaving them 12 points down at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Despite an excellent pass to DeAndre Hopkins, and more hard running by Tate, the Texas were unable to score on their opening drive of the fourth quarter. Kicker Bullock missed a 43 yard field goal wide right and the Texans had to kick it back to the Colts.
The Colts took advantage of the Texans’ miscues and got down field. On another Texans’ blitz, Luck found Whalen on 3rd and 10. On 2nd and 7, Luck hooked up with Hilton for another touchdown, giving the Colts their first lead of the game. They again went for two and got it this time on a pass to Fleener. The drive was six plays and went 52 yards, with a score of 27-24.
With 4:00 on the clock, Keenum passed 44 yards to Johnson giving him 8 catches for 215 yards. Colts’ Angerer caught Keenum as he tried a bootleg for a first down and brought up 3rd and 11. The Texans were forced to punt again. Hilton fair caught the ball at the 16.
The Colts couldn’t get the drive going as the Texans’ defense stuffed every attempt to run the ball and passes were incomplete. On the punt lineup, the Colts were called for false start and were backed up to the 10. Martin caught the ball but fumbled it, and it looked as if the Colts recovered. On review, the call was reversed, giving the ball back to Houston.
With 44 seconds left, Tate scrambled to the 50, and then Keenum landed two bombs down the field to get to the 37 where he spiked the ball. With 5 seconds remaining, Bullock missed a 55 yard field goal wide left.
Time expired and the Colts won 27-24. The Colts go to 6-2 and the Texans fall to 2-6.
Luck passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Keenum passed for 350 yards and all three of his touchdowns went to Andre Johnson.
Despite jumping out hard and fast early in the game, the Texans blew an 18 point halftime lead. Whether or not they lost concentration after Kubiak’s collapse is up for debate. It is recognized, however, that even though Phillips is an exceptional defensive coordinator, he has never done very well as an NFL head coach. Normally, Kubiak calls the pays in, gathering his players in for encouragement and direction. Perhaps his absence was too much to overcome.
Or perhaps Luck’s luck finally turned around. Either way, this was an exciting and dramatic game. Luck has now lead 10 game winning drives in his short career either in the 4th quarter or in over time. He is well on his way to becoming an elite NFL quarterback. Keenum did all the right things to put his team in a position to go into overtime with a tie. Had Bullock not missed two field goals earlier in the game, it may have ended in the Texans’ favor. His third miss, however, was their undoing and Indy’s come back was sealed.
All our best goes out to Coach Kubiak, his family and the Texans. We hope for his speedy return and recovery.
Denver Broncos Coach John Fox got light-headed while golfing near his offseason home with friends and family on Saturday. Reports indicated it was not a heart attack but earlier today, Broncos officials confirmed. Fox will be undergoing aortic valve replacement surgery on Tuesday. Fox was alert and discussing with general manager John Elway and the coaching staff who may take his place while he is out for about a month. The decision was made earlier Sunday, in favor of former Jaguars’ Coach Jack del Rio.
By Brandi Tasby